The Southern Fried Queer Pride Festival visited Hattiesburg for the second year in a row, raising awareness for the LGBTQ community in the Hub City.
The majority of the festival’s events were held at the Spectrum Center, which was “serving as a host location for meetings for various groups affiliated with the LGBTQ+ community,” according to hattiesburgpride.com.
President of the Board of the Spectrum Center Nathan Martin showed his support for the community and participated in the festival.
“This whole weekend is about having events where people can come and be themselves and really be celebrated for who they are and their differences instead of feeling like outsiders,” Martin said. “We’re everywhere.”
Starting on Oct. 7, the Hattiesburg United Southern Fried Festival kicked off with a “Gayest Tour Ever” themed show. The last day on Oct. 9 was a day of worship at Joshua Generation Metropolitan Community Church located in the Oak Grove area, followed by a Pride finale tea dance.
With all of the events happening during the week, the festival brought LGBTQ members from all across America.
“It brings together the community,” said Mobile native Josh Hill. “Even when we were on our parade, I saw people outside of the businesses taking pictures and videos and waving. [Pride is] feeling good about myself, who I am and where I come from.”
For Hill to come into the Hattiesburg-area for the Pride festival, the awareness and comfort for the LGBTQ community had to be present. The Pride Walk and Pride in the Park, which were held Oct. 8, gathered the LGBTQ community as they walked around downtown.
Martin, who was a part of the walk, stresses the importance of making those in the community comfortable and safe with their differences.
“It gives people a safe place to come and be themselves around other people that are similar and also love and accept them for who they are,” Martin said. “I think that’s really important especially here in Mississippi that we have safe areas like that for people of all sexualities.”
Not all of the people in the park were a part of the LGBTQ community.
“It’s really about the equality for my friends,” said Hattiesburg resident Anjuly May “I think that everybody has a right. It doesn’t bother me and it shouldn’t bother anybody else.”
May has been married for three years with her husband, and she shows support for those in the LGBTQ community in Hattiesburg and beyond.
“All these people [are] just fighting for things that are so easy for me to do and that really just breaks my heart and thats why it’s so important for me to be fighting for this and equality and that’s why I do what I do,” May said. “There’s lots of things that we’re fighting for for other people because they can’t do the things that I want to be able to do. It’s really important.”
As a part of the LGBTQ community himself, while being a part of the Spectrum Center as well, Martin spoke about being comfortable with the community and developing understanding with those LGBTQ and not.
“We’re already here, we’re already a part of the community,” Martin said. “It’s who we are as people. We like to think that we add to the experience and the culture of this area and of southern Mississippi.”